When it was released in late 2001, Mythic Games' massively multiplayer online role-playing game Dark Age of Camelot helped to set a new standard of quality for other games of this type. Among other interesting features, it allowed players to side with one of three unique realms (respectively based on Arthurian, Celtic, and Norse mythology) and eventually let them battle against players from the other sides. For the developers at Mythic, this basically meant that they needed to develop three separate online RPGs, since the three realms were completely self-contained and each had its own character classes, monsters, quests, and more. No wonder, then, that some Dark Age players started to complain that the game was lacking in content. They felt the design of the game was spread thin. Last year, the game's first retail expansion pack, Shrouded Isles, added a good chunk of new territory that members of each realm could explore. This year's expansion (which, technically, is an expansion to an expansion since both the original game and Shrouded Isles are required) abandons the realm-specific design and adds still more new territory that characters from each realm can travel to, explore, and solve quests in. Here, high-level characters can become stronger still, though nothing about this expansion is well suited to new or returning players.
As a matter of fact, Trials of Atlantis probably didn't need to be released as a commercial product in stores. Active, dedicated Dark Age of Camelot players would have been willing to download it directly, and they're the ones who'd appreciate the new ability--and would have the time--to continue to advance their high-level characters by winning powerful artifacts and gaining master levels, which yield new abilities that make characters even more versatile. The new Atlantean lands do offer some challenges for relatively low-level players (level 20 and up), but you'll need a character of at least 40th level to participate in the main attractions--the trials of Atlantis themselves--which are a linear series of epic quests, each with multiple parts. Even if you have a high-level character, unless you're an active member of a player guild, you might have trouble finding the help you need to face the trials. The new lands of Atlantis challenge players to accomplish specific goals, so don't expect to see players just hanging out, waiting for others to show up. Getting to Atlantis is easy enough, via new ports in the respective realms' Shrouded Isles territories, but you'd best show up with an entourage.
The three competing realms don't all congregate in Atlantis. The lands are mirror-imaged for each realm, so the entrances are in different places, and the loot is different. But the lay of the land itself isn't different. Trials of Atlantis also doesn't make any changes to the realm-versus-realm gameplay of Dark Age of Camelot, which is where dedicated players end up spending most of their time since they've usually already maxed-out their characters through killing countless monsters. Mythic promises a downloadable realm-versus-realm expansion in the future, so for now, Dark Age players can concentrate on strengthening their characters with the new loot and new master-level abilities featured in Trials of Atlantis.
Three new races have been added in this expansion (one per realm), but they don't look and certainly don't play all that differently from the existing races. This, combined with the sheer time commitment and repetition needed to advance a new character to high levels, means that these new races aren't that significant of an addition.
The Atlantean lands are waterlogged and interestingly combine ancient Greek-style and Egyptian-style architecture. The expansion's new archipelagos and the vast underwater zones below them look significantly different from other areas of Dark Age of Camelot, and they make use of some fresh graphical effects, such as newly improved reflective water. There are even some new modes of transportation, from the ships that ferry you around the islands to the aquatic life that can take you around undersea. Fortunately, there are various ways for characters to breath underwater, and being able to swim in all directions is certainly a change of pace from being limited to running across hills and plains or through dungones.
These days, Dark Age of Camelot doesn't look that great, though it's aging well. While the scenery has been revamped in this expansion, the player character models all look rather simplistic. The game still sounds good, overall, though this is mostly due to a fitting ambient musical score. However, Dark Age's presentation, while pretty good, is not what's kept players glued to this game. The combination of entertaining player-versus-environment questing and dungeon crawls, along with the competitive realm-versus-realm component, has made Dark Age of Camelot one of the better games of its type. Still, it's left players wanting more. Trials of Atlantis creates a diversion for high-level players who are growing weary of the current realm-versus-realm gameplay, but unfortunately, it doesn't offer any compelling reasons for new players to get into the game, nor does it give cause for those who took a hiatus from the realms to return.